Mine Clearance Expert "Died A Hero"

A coroner's said a former Royal Navy diver who was killed as he tried to clear an anti-personnel mine in Sudan "died a hero's death''.

Stephen "Darby'' Allan, 52, was unlawfully killed by the explosion working for the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) near Kapoeta, southern Sudan, it was ruled.

Mr Allan, from Portsmouth, had spent more than 30 years as a clearance diver in the Royal Navy and later joined MAG in 2006 to help clear mines from conflict zones around the world including Lebanon and Congo.

But on October 15 last year he died as he tried to place a charge by an anti-personnel mine, which was packed with 6.6oz (188g) of TNT and was up to 20 years old.

An inquest heard it was a device smaller than a brick which was developed by Israel and used extensively with devastating consequences in south Lebanon.

Mr Allan's wife, Karen, said he was always professional and enjoyed his work because he felt he was making a difference, despite his concerns about the political unrest in Sudan.

She told the inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall:

"He did get a buzz out of it. He said 'If you are going to do a job, do it well'.

"But he was also aware that it could have consequences as it has done, but it never stopped him doing it. He went in with his eyes open. They weren't rose-tinted.''

Recording his verdict, Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Coroner David Horsley described Mr Allan as a "true hero'' who had saved many lives.

He said:

"Throughout his working life he has done dangerous work so that people can live, and that is something that should be recognised.

"I think the world is a poorer place without him and people like him. Countless numbers of people will have owed their lives to him personally and that wasn't the end of it.

"He was also a big human being in what he tried to do.''

He added:

"I don't want to sound cliched but I think he died a hero's death.''

Despite wearing a helmet with a full-face visor and Kevlar protective armour, Mr Allan suffered multiple severe injuries from the blast.

A delay in getting him airlifted from the scene may not have boosted the chances of survival for Mr Allan, who had suffered critical levels of blood loss, pathologist Dr Judith O'Higgins said.